There it was right in front of me, the words nobody wants to read ‘flight cancelled’. I was in line, ready to hand over my boarding pass, it was about 4pm in Dallas airport, I was on my way to Birmingham, Alabama. I could hear the collective groan, conversations sprung up ‘Is there another flight?’ ‘Does this airport have a hotel?’
I looked outside and it was black, storms had descended, it matched the mood in line, which had also turned dark, disgruntled passengers started arguing with airline staff who are trying to keep their composure.
I’d already been in this airport almost 3 hours. I had a lovely burger and beer at ‘TGI” Fridays whilst watching French Open highlights, played around on my phone, been for a push through the terminal (I was bored by this point) and sat in front of a doughnut shop for 20 minutes trying to decide whether to take the plunge, I didn’t.
I was ready to leave, gosh darn it, but somebody upstairs decided to push the thunder and rain button and turn this airport into a chaotic mess. I finally made my way through the line up to the counter, clearly expecting to be put on a flight to Birmingham tomorrow. The passengers before me were being told ‘the 7pm flight tonight is overbooked, we’ll get you on your way tomorrow’
Resigned to my fate I hand over my boarding pass just waiting for the inevitable but instead I hear, ‘Mr Hall I’ve got you on the 7pm flight’. I don’t ask questions or even try to understand it, ‘Thanks very much’, and with that I’m off back into the abyss that is Dallas airport. I’ve got another 2 hours to kill, I call my buddy, Danny, who is planning to pick me up in Birmingham, tell him to hang tight, I’m on my way, just not yet. Well, what to do now?
Everyone has a time limit at airports, some people can occupy themselves quite happily, and others are manic and can’t wait to get the hell out. As I cruise around on another pushing expedition through various gates, I can see it on their faces, some are laughing playing on their phones and computers, others are pissed off trying to keep the kids happy.
As for me, I’ll have to hit the ‘reset’ button. I sit in front of a bar watching various suited men sink some beers watching ‘Sportscenter’. Maybe I should join them, strike up a conversation with a salesman from Oklahoma and spend some time on the beer train, nah knowing my luck I’d miss the flight altogether.
Maybe I should get into an airline ‘lounge’, at least get some free food, nah, gone are the days when I had enough miles that at check in balloons and streamers would fall from the ceiling and I’d be treated like god.
So, instead I park it in front of gate 37 which is going to Guadalajara, Mexico and pull out Rob Lowe’s autobiography, a great read, good stories in there about the time he punched Tom Cruise in the face and how Cary Grant came running after him in a bathrobe. I listen to music; I people watch and go for another push. Some flights are now actually leaving; its still raining but there is hope.
Finally, 6.20pm rolls around, its time to go my gate, hallelujah, as I get close I check the board and as if on cue Birmingham switches from 7pm to ‘delayed’, 9pm take off. Are you kidding me, I can’t believe it, another 2 bloody hours. There’s only so much pushing I can do, I can’t people watch any longer. I call Danny; tell him the bad news, ‘Its all good’, he says. I should have gotten on that flight to Guadalajara; at least I’d be outta here.
Everything has shifted now, stranded passengers start roaming the terminal, lost and confused, we are the ‘airport zombies’, the undead with no purpose other than to roam aimlessly until our flight leaves or doesn’t. We don’t know how long we’ll be here and start to feel like that character in the Tom Hanks movie who actually lives in a ‘Terminal’. I think that guy got a job in the movie; maybe I should start working in the doughnut shop. Two hours pass and you know what happens next. Another delay, 11pm take off.
I would have arrived in Guadalajara by now, or I could have pushed to Birmingham. Finally at 11.50pm I am sitting on the plane, ready to take off, which I think is a miracle in itself. But wait, it can’t be this easy. The guy in an ‘exit’ row has to be able to speak English so as to understand instructions in case the plane plummets to the ground, well this guy can’t speak English and apparently really likes this seat because he won’t move when asked by the flight attendant. Oh great, another delay. Now the captain gets involved, the guy reluctantly moves and we must soon be on our way, surely.
Hang on, why are we still sitting here? Am I asleep, this must be a nightmare? No, now I hear the captain having a conversation with somebody about reaching his time limit of being on ‘duty’ and how we are getting very close to having to switch crews. This can’t be happening, if I close my eyes and wish hard enough that we start taxing to the runway then maybe it will happen, otherwise I’m going back to the terminal and will have about 6 doughnuts I decide.
Oh no, wait, I can’t believe the plane is actually moving, could this be true, I’m about to leave Dallas airport, hail god or Caesar or both. I’ll hail anybody at this point. I keep my eyes closed and wish this plane off the ground and all the way to Birmingham one hour and 40 minutes later, when after exiting this goddam aircraft I emerge into Birmingham airport at 1.40am, which is like a ghost town, I swear I saw a tumbleweed blow by. Danny is waiting curbside to pick me up, we both have a laugh, it’s all I can do really.